Thirty-six hours of racing in eight days: for one bunch of racing troubadours, that’s how 2020 kicked off, with the Daytona 24 Hours in Florida on one weekend, a long-haul hop across the Pacific, then the Bathurst 12 Hours in Australia the next. What a life.
Five-time Indycar champion Scott Dixon was one among them, winning at Daytona in a Cadillac prototype then racing an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 at Bathurst. Briton Oliver Jarvis was another, finishing second for Mazda at the 24 Hours then making his return as a ‘Bentley Boy’ in a Continental GT3 Down Under. Luck didn’t travel with him, but the sister crew secured a great win, Bentley’s first in a major endurance race since Le Mans back in 2003.
Then there was 21-year-old Harrison Newey, a rookie at both races who only did his Bathurst deal the morning after earning a coveted Rolex Daytona watch for winning the LMP2 class in Florida. Unforgettable times for Adrian Newey’s boy.
“My first race in America and a pretty good way to kick things off,” he says with heavy understatement. “I was with the right team in DragonSpeed. They told me to look after the car because we knew we had a reasonable shot.” Newey, fellow Brit Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman and Colin Braun had a perfect run to win the class by two laps.
The race is run on a track combining a fiddly infield road course with the Nascar tri-oval’s 31deg banking, which left him wide-eyed. “It’s really strange, you are always looking up,” he said. “My neck hurt by the end of the weekend because you are crouched forward trying to look through the top of the screen.”
After celebrating victory, word came that a deal to race a Mercedes-Benz SLS GT4 at Bathurst was on. Hastily arranged flights from Orlando to Hong Kong to Sydney later, Newey was strapped into an entirely different car on an equally daunting race track.
Bathurst is one of the best in the world, most notably because of its twisting, wall-lined Mountain section. “It is so fast and the walls are so close,” says Newey. “There’s no room for error, as shown by the number of cars written off.”
In a race that started at an ungodly 5.45am, Newey and his team-mates gave the Merc GT4 its Aussie debut and made the flag despite major gearbox problems. Now it’s back to reality as he works to secure a drive for the rest of the season. It’ll be hard to top his double bill.